Hello and welcome to EVN Chronicles’ seasonal Steam Curator Wrap-up, where I cover the VNs sent to me for review through Steam’s Curator Connect functionality. Lately, I’ve come to a sad realisation that I’m unlikely to keep up with all the games I’m receiving, with the appropriate tab in my Steam library growing more and more intimidating over time. However, I’ll be still working to give a chance to as many of them as possible, and assess them for all of you. This time around, I’ve been able to check out five titles, the main highlight being the newest VN by the Indonesian studio Kidalang, Legend of Everything, with its deeply unique spin on the isekai formula. This is, however, not where the interesting stuff ends, as the climatic Revenant March and wonderfully-stylized Tell a Demon also proved to be strong contenders, making this one of the most compelling lists I’ve worked on in this series. So, please join me in this brief overview and if any of the games catch your interest, you can go straight to their Steam pages by clicking their titles. Enjoy!
Legend of Everything is definitely the most unusual visual novel in today’s post, particularly because of its subject matter. At first glance, it might look like a simple spin on the isekai formula, with an inhabitant of a fantasy-themed, video game world being the protagonist and interacting with a particularly chaotic person transported there from our reality. However, pretty soon it transforms into a giant thought experiment, and basically a lecture on the simulation hypothesis – the idea that our universe is actually a simulation created by some advanced intelligence. This notion might seem absurd at first glance, but is made less so the more you learn about modern physics theory and strangely arbitral rules that govern various phenomena it describes. While never fully abandoning the formula of comedic fantasy adventure, Legend of Everything thoroughly explores this idea and conveys tons of legitimate science knowledge, basically becoming the most moe course on modern science you’re likely to can find, presented in a highly accessible, but genuinely educational way. If you’re at least marginally interested in this kind of topics, the game should be quite enjoyable to you.
What’s less impressive, in my opinion, is the visual side of the experience, dependent on subpar-quality 3D sprites and environments. It’s particularly disappointing in contrast with the rather-stylish art in this studio’s previous titles, An Octave Higher and One Small Fire at a Time. However, I was pretty quickly able to look past it thanks to how enjoyable the writing was, consistently combining well-constructed science discussions with quirky characters and humour, and even some epic and heartfelt moments worthy of a “proper” fantasy story. Saying anything more would inevitably involve spoilers, so I’ll simply recommend everyone to check this game out – it offers a lot more than you’d expect at first glance.
Final rating: Highly Recommended
Weeping Willow is a short (2-3 hours of reading, no choices) detective story observed from the perspective of Sophie, a young demi-human woman whose recently-wed husband, a wealthy noble, disappeared mysteriously during a plague. After she starts working with the local investigator to learn what happened, a man claiming to be the missing Baron von Wolf enters her house. Desperate to expose the impostor before she’s removed as an obstacle, but without appropriate proof, she has to cooperate with the investigator, who’s also suspicious of the Baron’s sudden “return”. This creates a tense, high-stakes story with a decent amount of twists, while Sophie fights to preserve both her life and her sanity amid a conspiracy that proves even more complex and hard to break than she could imagine.
Once more, saying anything more would inevitably involve spoilers, as the story relies very heavily on mystery and subverting reader’s expectations. While the plot involves some minor contrivances if you analyse it closely enough, I have to say that I deeply enjoyed the writing and production quality the game offered. The art and music were maybe not exceptional, but fully serviceable and the intrigue never stopped being suspenseful. Also, for the low price of $2, it’s an amazing value proposition. If murder mystery and detective stories are your things, you should definitely check this one out.
Final rating: Highly Recommended
The newest game by a veteran of this section, Mikołaj Spychał, is something of a disappointment even by the humble standards of his usual output. It tells a story of a person (you can choose the protagonist’s name and gender) who becomes a patron for two bunnygirls – humanoids that appeared on modern Earth in mysterious circumstances and were all placed under an assimilation program, where they receive education and get acclimated to human society under volunteer caretakers. The protagonist is one such volunteer, anxiously awaiting their first assignment.
What follows this brief setup is an extremely fluffy and by-the-numbers slice of life story without any real twists, or even romantic elements one would usually expect. While this is not a huge issue by itself, when coupled with relatively low production values, just around 3 hours of linear story and the relatively steep $10 price tag, there’s really no way to recommend buying this game. The author’s previous titles at least let you derive some entertainment from their unusual approach to romance and the ability to utterly ruin it with irresponsible decisions. This time around, even this hook is absent, which alongside purely-meaningless choices condemned the game into being utterly generic and forgettable. You can feel free to skip this one.
Final rating: Not Recommended
Revenant March is another one of those low-budget EVNs that might look very unassuming, but compensate for that with strong climate and imaginative setting. This short mystery game follows the story of Olenine, a young exorcist who gets hired by a powerful merchant to save his daughter from a town beset by a curse. After travelling through magical mist, she finds her target kidnapped by a powerful spirit and the town’s community extremely hard to cooperate with, despite being besieged by an army of undead. To succeed, she’ll have to uncover the many secrets hidden in the town, including the one directly connected to the spirit’s presence – and not die while doing so. Quite appropriately to this theme, progressing through the game involves navigating a massive maze of choices (including many dead ends) through which Olenine attempts to gather information and build alliances with people crucial for her goals. At the same time, we’re learning details from her own, disturbing past, and the path that led her to the craft of dealing with the dead.
The game, at first, seems pretty simple visually, but includes a lot of assets which are all stylized in a way that reinforces the suffocating, gloomy tone of the story. There’s a good number of major characters that are important for uncovering the town’s secrets, pretty much all of them very decently designed, and well fleshed out when it goes to personalities and motivations. Despite the rather brief main story (3-4 hours), Revenant March managed to be just as multi-layered and full of twists as I’d expect from a good mystery game, and even the sub-optimal ending I’ve reached on my first playthrough was pretty satisfying. The only real negative might be the choice-maze which makes it really hard to identify the path leading to the best ending, which also unlocks an epilogue expanding on Olenine’s story. Even with this small caveat though, it’s a worthwhile experience for anyone liking the mystery/investigation genre – if you’re even remotely interested in those, I highly recommend checking out this VN.
Final rating: Highly Recommended
Tell a Demon, the sequel to a freeware VN Asher, is not a new release, first appearing on Steam in mid-2017. It is, however, obscure enough that it completely escaped my attention before being sent to me through Curator Connect – and I’m glad it was, as this small series, despite some issues I have with its mechanics, has many interesting things to offer. It utilizes a unique Urban Fantasy setting, taking place in a city on a secluded continent, once ruled by the universally despised, immortal Empress. While the tyrannical monarch was killed by one of the nobles from her court, the blood-drinking demons she created, as both servants and enforcers, still roam the land, despite being considered a mere legend by the general public. Both games involve the same set of central characters, demons and those whose lives are influenced by them in the shadowy corners of the Asher city, stylized after 1920’s US but full of magic and hidden, ancient artefacts.
Tell a Demon combines this setting with a striking, painting-like artstyle and a complex intrigue with three protagonists, the fate of whom will be decided by the player’s choices. Those choices, however, might be the single biggest issues I have with the game – with the number of them present and the ability to either pick a dialogue option or let it time out, they create a maze-like structure that only the most dedicated readers should approach without a guide. This is more of a personal preference though and other than that, the game’s complex world, eerie climate and atmospheric music are deeply enjoyable. I’d recommend Tell a Demon to anyone interested in mystery VNs that escape the usual tropes – although if you’re not sure it’ll be to your liking, it’s anyway highly advisable to read Asher first and familiarize yourself with the setting, some of the main characters and the visual style of the series.
Final Rating: Highly Recommended
Like I’ve mentioned, today’s list was rather exceptional when it goes to the quality of games that got sent to me and it’s always very satisfying when I can compliment the developers that decided to share their work with me. With the sad, but somewhat expected exception of Usagiri, all these VNs impressed me with their creativity and interesting concepts. In this, they’re showcasing the best features of the EVN niche, able to overcome its small budgets and often tiny development teams through creativity and ability to escape overused tropes. I hope you’ll consider giving at least some of them a chance.
Have a great weekend everyone, and until next time!